ILLINOIS GROUPS WORKING ON NLRS, WATER QUALITY SHOWCASE
COLLABORATION AT WATER RESOURCES CONFERENCE
June 12, 2019
Media Relations Specialist
Illinois Farm Bureau
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Efforts to improve water quality and nutrient management in the state of Illinois have gained momentum in the last five years, with much of the success coming from continued development and implementation of the state’s Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS).
Ongoing collaboration with several key groups, including the Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB), Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD), Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council (NREC) and the Illinois Chapter of Sierra Club, as well as research out of Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC), University of Illinois (U of I) and Purdue University (Purdue), all greatly contribute to efforts.
“Collaboration between these organizations invested in water resources research, education and outreach continues to build year after year and that’s something we’re proud of,” said IFB Director of Natural and Environmental Resources Lauren Lurkins.
Stakeholders had the chance to showcase Illinois’ efforts at the Annual Water Resources Conference of the Universities Council on Water Resources (UCOWR) and the National Institutes for Water Resources held in Snowbird, Utah on June 11 and 12. UCOWR is a consortium of academic institutions and affiliates invested in water resources, education and outreach, and is housed in Illinois at SIUC. The meeting, attended by over 200 individuals, includes an audience made up of university researchers, Extension staff, national and state agency representatives and environmental advocates from states across the country. The event provided an opportunity to tell the story of nutrient management in Illinois on a national stage.
“We’re here at the UCOWR conference to let others know we’ve got this strong collaboration underway in Illinois addressing our Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy,” said Sierra Club Illinois Clean Water Program Director Cindy Skrukrud. “I’m feeling most hopeful about the progress we’re making on this big issue because so many people from so many disciplines are working together.”
Several presentations by IFB, MWRD, NREC, Sierra Club, and academic representatives explained big picture research and day-to-day efforts and events that seek to implement NLRS best practices.
“In the state of Illinois, some of our highlights would be the fact that we have an ongoing set of meetings where all of the stakeholders are brought together to work and collaborate,” said Lurkins. “We also work to produce a public-facing report that our state agencies – the Illinois Department of Ag and Illinois EPA – work extremely hard on to get the data out to the general public on how far we’ve come on this issue.”
Lurkins presented on Illinois farmer implementation of the NLRS. Nearly $1 million has been invested by the IFB Board of Directors since 2015 to improve water quality in the state.
The annual conference also provided IFB and its partners the opportunity to learn about water quality research happening in multiple universities across the country.
“We are actively learning about other states’ practices and scientific information we can implement in Illinois to improve the progress we’re making on the NLRS,” said MWRD Environmental Monitoring and Research Manager Albert Cox.
SIUC Professor and UCOWR Executive Director Dr. Karl Williard believes the amount of ongoing collaboration and the scale of efforts throughout the state can serve as a model for other states in the Midwest dealing with their own nutrient loss reduction strategies.
“We still have progress to make in terms of adoption of best management practices that will help keep more nutrients and soil on the farm,” Williard said. “But we’re certainly making progress and partnerships go a long way to help doing that.”
Cox summed up the stakeholders’ feelings on the power of partnership:
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.”
More details on Illinois nutrient stewardship efforts will be detailed in the upcoming 2019 NLRS Biennial Report.
About the Illinois Farm Bureau
The Illinois Farm Bureau is a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation, a national organization of farmers and ranchers. Founded in 1916, IFB is a non-profit, membership organization directed by farmers who join through their county Farm Bureau. IFB has a total membership of more than 394,742 and a voting membership of 78,999. IFB represents three out of four Illinois farmers.